Flashback: Part 2 of Barry Egan's account of an eventful night with The Corrs in Sweden in 2000
Barry Egan recalls 24 hours with The Corrs - Sharon, Andrea, Caroline, and Jim - before and after they take to the stage in Sweden back in 2000. Here, he talks to Andrea about her mother's death.
(Read part 1 of Barry's account HERE)
You don't have to be a Zen Buddhist to understand that death is an inevitable part of life. People pass on. We lose people. The beautiful Irish pop star that was Andrea Corr in 2000 understood this more than most. As such, she realised that you can't suppress something as powerful as the grief of losing a mother; and expect it not to have some kind of effect on you.
"I thought life was wonderful before," Andrea said to me in Stockholm in 2000, "now I think it's really wonderful. I know that sounds ironic. Most people say, `You should think it's crap now, surely?' But no. I just thought, `It's so beautiful.' We're all walking around so in need of each other and so lonely in our own bodies yet so joined of people that are here now. I have this broader picture and it's fuller."
"I always had a lust for life, and now I don't want to miss a thing." Andrea smiled.
"I just want to feel it as much as I can and move on. I have no fear of death myself. I don't really want to go through what she went through but I think there's a reason that she had to go through it and I surely couldn't cop out if she did it. I don't like that hospital scene … even though everybody's so lovely… but having things in and out when you're just going to die. It has to have been for some reason and I don't know that yet. I am a lot more frightened of losing other people."
Andrea knows that nobody - not even pop stars with a number one album in 25 countries around the world, as the Corrs were back in the day - gets away with a life that is blessed and content from beginning to end. This is why the sadness did not eat her own whole when on November 24 1999, her ma had a brain haemorrhage in the middle of the night. She was on full ventilation at that stage in the Freeman Hospital.
"She could have gotten a lung transplant and that would be another struggle for five years," Andrea recalled. "The expectancy is that only 50 per cent live for five years. Mammy wanted to live. She didn't want half a life. I didn't want it for her. As soon as she got this disease, there was worry in her life, and I hated that for her…"
There is a very long pause. During which, I tell Andrea that I don't know what to say.
"I wouldn't want Mammy to go around worrying: going over and back to Newcastle, you know, more steroids, more worrying, the rejection that happens, still fighting and fighting and with half the quality of life that a woman like her wasn't about. ”
“Ask anyone who knew her - Mammy was just not a half-liver. She loved ..loved life. And also with the worrying and the lack of breath and the whole lot … and yet her fighting to get better and healthy … I suppose it's an Irish guilt thing that we all have, but there was a slight part of her that would slightly blame herself."
"Like, initially she went, `Oh, I'm just not fit.' It was just so unfair for her to ever think it was anything to do with her or to feel any guilt or to feel any, y'know - `Oh God, what happened?' By the last while, it was so tiring and wrecking her that she was worried and tired all the time; she didn't smile… and Mammy always smiled and always laughed. And when she did smile it was for our sakes and for Dad's."
Andrea Corr realised that losing her mother is one of the most awful things that will happen in her life. But Andrea she has grown from her the pain has helped her grow. The poet Sylvia Plath once said she talked to God 'but the sky is empty.'
In her time of sorrow, Andrea Corr didn't find the sky empty at all. Her faith in God has helped turn that very real pain into something wonderful. "I just think that I have got God to thank that he took her in the middle of the night before she even had a chance to get a lung transplant or go through all that and have half a life ...and have further worry."
So, weren't you angry with God for taking your mother?
"No, because I don't get angry with God. I think of it in an awful lot of different ways. I am angry she got ill. I am angry she had pain. We don't have a reason for that. We're not supposed to."
"I just have to keep my faith, and I am. I really believe I'll see her again. I believe it's all for a reason. I believe everything is for a reason and once we're good and we follow our hearts, some day we'll know."
In the end, the Corr family did not want their mother to suffer humiliation. Jean had suffered enough. Andrea can remember that during the whole deteriorating process her own anger would rise inside if her mother was humiliated in any way.
"Because death," Andrea said that night in 2000, "is quite humiliating."
"But it is something that we have to go through. I didn't want her to be humiliated. I didn't want her to struggle and struggle and in the end there was no point in her fighting because she was going to die. The idea of her fighting and struggling … the end result was going to be the same: quite humiliating for her. I didn't want that."
"At this time I have so much to be thankful to God for. On that level, sometimes I look at it - and I have to look at it this way - that Mammy was so fantastic that God wanted her so much that he really insisted: `No, no, I'm having her.' That's flattering."
Andrea said that she knows she'll see her mum again one day. She'll open her eyes one morning and there Jean will be at the bottom of the valley, right before her eyes, hidden amid the golden trees … a deluge of glittering rays falling upon her, defining every angle of her face. And together they'll watch the sunlight flash along the distant grass-lands.
"Some day we'll be together again and it will only be an instant until I see her again," Andrea mused, "and she still is with me. I don't believe she's gone. I believe in another world and I believe it's just a different thing and it isn't physical and it's all goodness and love and happiness and warmth. Sometimes I have dreams that have indicated even further than my own belief: that that does exist."
She's with you now. Not just in dreams? I said to Andrea.
"I think she's with me now," Andrea smiled. "I think she's constantly with me. There are blessings bestowed on you and you don't know why but it is your loved one looking after you. And I feel that. I feel now, instead of when she was alive when I had her physically - when I could ring her up and be with her and smell her and touch her. But now she doesn't leave me for a second and I don't leave her for a second.”
“I walk around with her with her arms around me. And even though life will upset you and things will happen, I have got that extra help. I would prefer her to be alive, obviously, but that's the way it is now."
Andrea Corr has that rare spark within her that Carl Jung defined in his 'Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious ' as 'soul': "Soul is a life-giving demon who plays his elfin game above and below existence," he noted.
"I don't care whether people think I'm spacey or whatever," she told as 25,000 satisfied Swedes filed out of the venue after tonight‘s show, "or what they write about me. I just want to have truth in my life. I'm not scared of death. So why should I be scared of what anyone thinks of me?"
Spend any amount of time with Andrea Corr (a year later, I went to New York, a sold-out Radio City Music Hall, and Miami with The Corrs and wrote the introduction for their glossy American tour program) and what emerges is this slightly out-of-kilter spirit with an almost surreal view of human existence.
And her place in it.
Like a character from Frank McCourt's 'Angela's Ashes', Andrea remembers the churches of her youth as places where she found it very hard not to laugh in growing up...
"It wasn't fear but the fact that I really wasn't supposed to laugh put me in a situation. Put me in a situation where I can't laugh and I just roar laughing," Andrea roared laughing.
"And that was always a problem with me in church. I would get a fit of the giggles because it would be wrong to be laughing in mass. I was laughing because it was bold and people were tut-tutting me.”
“The more they were tut-tutting, the more I laughed. It's the same with funerals. Some people say it is discomfort. Sometimes the more serious things are the funnier they are, ironically."
And did you think the idea of Mary - mother of one - being a virgin was funny?
"Yeah, I didn't get that. Y'see our parents didn't say: this is all literal. They just said that's just the way the story is told. Parables. I don't know what Mary was. The virgin part it's the bit that men had decided to put into it."
Only in two of the gospels - Mathew and Luke - is the word "Virgin" used. In the English Bible they say 'virgin' but the Greek word can just as easily mean young woman'. And as for the original Aramaic word can also be translated as: 'Expecting a happy event.'
"It's just another thing that's supposed to send out the message that sex is wrong!" laughed Andrea.
"Right!" laughed Andrea’s older sister Caroline. "Why does she have to be a virgin? It's strange. It's kind of baloney really, you take written word as written by man and it has mistakes and truths and that's how I take it."
"We have to decipher the truth for ourselves. I always thought about Mary in terms of this Immaculate Conception and I was, like, 'Wait a minute! How does that work?’"
They say women prefer Mary to Jesus, I say. They pray to God but they're also a bit afraid of him - whereas with Mary, she's more like a friend. It's as though the Blessed Virgin is a bit of themselves and a bit of their own mother at the same time. And men can never hope to understand that.
"Yeah," said Andrea. "She seems more compassionate. It's softer. It's a softer image, but I think Jesus's image is soft also. God is the image we don't really know; that was the image you could be scared of."
"I think women will identify with her because she is a woman and probably because she seems like the kind of person who didn't say much and got on with things," said Caroline. "The men ruled the roost basically. I never felt closer to either one. But I do think about the immaculate conception and how ridiculous that was - that Mary still has to be a virgin."
Virgin on the ridiculous in Stockholm. Where would you get it?
Read part 1 HERE